The starting point when choosing the best commercial air compressor for your business is to think about:

  • Which application you intend to use air compression for.
  • What air demands you’ll be looking at.
  • How the type of compressor you choose will impact energy costs and efficiency.

Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is an essential metric, along with the PSI of the compressor – which indicates the pressure of the air in pounds per square inch.

Selecting a suitable commercial air compressor is about having equipment that can perform an action in the correct timeframe and with adequate capacity.

Here we’ll break it down and run through each consideration, in turn, to help you make informed choices about the suitable commercial air compressor for your intended use!


What Size Commercial Air Compressor Do I Need?

So, having a suitably sized air compressor is crucial because:

  • A compressor that is too small won’t provide sufficient pressure and airflow.
  • One that is too big will cost more than it needs to, both to buy and run, and may cause mechanical issues.

It’s vital to select a compressor that meets actual demand, rather than oversizing your equipment too much to provide for a contingency.

Having a commercial air compressor that is too large will impact flexibility, increase waste, drive up running costs, and potentially damage other components that aren’t suited to the size of the machinery.


What Types of Air Compressors Are Available?

The next step is to consider the type of commercial air compressor you’re after, and most industrial compressors are either piston or rotary screw models, but that’s by no means an exhaustive list!

  • Piston compressors are often used in manufacturing, body shops, small machine work, tyre workshops and service centres. This is because they are simple, durable, low-cost, and easy to look after. 
  • Rotary compressors are more sophisticated and used where the air supply needs to be constant. These compressors can run continuously and usually come with a built-in dryer to produce clean, dry air at anything up to a few hundred HP.

While both commercial air compressors are efficient, they also have downsides.


Pitfalls to a Piston Commercial Air Compressor

  • Piston compressors are built for use intermittently – designed for around 30-35 minutes of compression per hour.
  • They need to have time to cool correctly between cycles to avoid overheating.
  • Oil is produced in the compressed airstream, so you’ll need a good treatment function to avoid damaging equipment and tooling.
  • Piston compressors are noisy, so sound control is essential.

In contrast, a rotary screw compressor can be mounted with an air tank to provide additional stored air capacity. It can be purchased as an integrated unit with the compressor, tank and dryer altogether.

A lot depends on your demand for compressed air and whether it’s worth investing in more expensive equipment to meet those requirements.


Do I Need a Portable or Stationary Air Compressor?

Air compressors come in a vast array of models, configurations, sizes and capacities!

The right equipment will also depend on whether you’re looking for:

  • An industrial, built-in compressor for use at one site.
  • A portable compressor you can take to multiple sites.

Portable commercial air compressors won’t be as powerful as a static model but can still be very high-quality and an efficient way to cover multi-site requirements.

Most portable compressors run on a diesel-powered motor. This element is useful because some job sites won’t have electrical mains power, so having an independent motor is more efficient.

You’ll often see portable compressors in the energy, construction and demolition industries.

However, a stationary compressor is more likely to produce more significant power outputs with electrical power in manufacturing.

Stationary compressors tend to be lower-cost to run and purchase. But, the limitation is that you will need a continuous electricity supply and can’t relocate your compressor.


What Power Output Do I Need From a Commercial Air Compressor?

Finally, you need to know what power requirements you have to choose an appropriate air compressor.

There are three elements to this:

  • Cubic feet per minute (CFM) – the amount of airflow you need your compressor to produce. You can work that out by combining the requirements of all compressed air-powered tools, plus a 30% contingency.
  • Pounds per square inch (PSI) – the amount of pressure your compressor can deliver. Any commercial air compressor needs to have a PSI rating above that of your highest-rated equipment or tool.
  • Horsepower (HP) – while not the primary metric in establishing the power capacity of your compressor, HP is still a helpful figure. HP measurements indicate the maximum output a compressor can reach at normal RPM.


Other factors to bear in mind include the duty cycle, whether the motor can run at full HP constantly or intermittently, and the service factor. 

That tells you at what percentage of rated HP your compressor can run safely.